The Cal Poly men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Thursday night in Mott Athletics Center.
IPFW’s Mo Evans hit a contested jump shot with three seconds remaining to give the Mastodons the 75-73 victory over the Mustangs.
Both teams played evenly for most of the first half. The Mustangs led the Mastodons 9-8 after five minutes, but IPFW took a 25-19 lead midway through the first half.
The Mustangs tied the game at 35-35 with 3:29 left in the half, but the Mastodons went on a 14-6 run before heading into the locker room.
A combination of Cal Poly’s poor defense and IPFW’s lights-out shooting helped create the highest-scoring first half of a Cal Poly basketball game this season as the Mustangs trailed 49-41. The Mastodons went into halftime having shot 66 percent from the field and 67 percent from the three-point line.
“We didn’t play any resemblance of defense the first 20 minutes of the night,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “We gave up 49 points in the first half on our home court. Credit it to them for great ball movement and slap on our face for not understanding the basics of being ready to play.”
Sophomore forward Luke Meikle led the Mustangs in scoring at the half with nine points. The Mustangs shot 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.
Cal Poly stormed back after halftime. The Mustangs rattled off an 18-8 run that culminated with a three-pointer by senior guard Reese Morgan and a 59-57 Mustangs lead.
The score remained tight until the Mustangs took a 71-65 lead with 3:54 remaining.
With the score level at 73 and 30 seconds remaining in the game, the Mustangs took control of the ball. Senior forward Brian Bennett received the ball on the block with 15 seconds remaining. Bennett turned and lofted a shot off of the glass that kissed the rim and lipped out.
IPFW quickly moved down the court and with a hand in his face, Evans sunk the eventual game-winning shot.
After the bucket, Callero called a time out to try and draw up a play in desperation. Junior guard Ridge Shipley grabbed the inbound pass and heaved a half-court shot that knocked off of the left side of the backboard and fell to the floor.
The loss snapped the Mustangs’ four-game winning streak and an eight-game nonconference home winning streak.
On paper, the game seemed as close as it truly was. Rebounding statistics were close, but the Mustangs edged the Mastodons on the boards, 39-33. The Mustangs shot 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from the three-point line in the game.
“The first half, they were able to get out and they were making shots and we just had to pick it up on defense,” Meikle said. “A little bit harder, a little bit tougher. I think it’s composure down the stretch as well. We made that run, but we just got to finish the game.”
Meikle finished with 16 points for the Mustangs, two shy of his career high. Senior guard David Nwaba added 11 points and senior guard Reese Morgan finished with 10 points.
“(We have to) not count on coming back in games, just trying to stay ahead. Coming out in the beginning of games aggressive and knocking down our shots and take it from there,” Nwaba said.
The Mustangs complete their three-game home stand on Saturday when Fresno State comes to town. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. in Mott Athletics Center.
Callero stressed that the team’s focus must improve to beat a talented team like Fresno State: “I’m concerned about our mental freshness and preparation. We’ve got to respect the game of basketball a little bit more and be ready.”